21 of Devon’s most scenic river walks

Walking, Nature, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Ruth on 8th January 2021

Devon river walks

With almost 70 rivers to explore, Devon is a brilliant place to visit if you want to walk through tranquil scenery, along waterside paths teeming with nature, in some of the most beautiful areas in the county.

We’ve rounded up some of the best Devon river walks, so you can get out on foot and explore the riparian routes throughout the county. Whether you’re planning a walk by some of the major rivers in Devon such as the Taw, the Exe or the Dart, to lesser-known Devon rivers where you can get off the beaten track, here are some of the best riverside walks in the county.

And if you need a cosy cottage to stay in after your adventures by the river, take a look at our collection of cottages below to find the perfect place to stay.

Devon cottages

Skip to:

River walks in North Devon

River walks in South Devon

River walks in East Devon

River walks in North Devon


East Lyn River: Watersmeet to Ash Bridge walk

This beautiful North Devon river walk gives you the opportunity to spot otters and herons as you follow the route along the banks of the babbling East Lyn River. It’s a fantastic walk all year round, where you can wander through bluebell woodland in the spring and admire the rust-coloured canopies above you in the autumn. There’s also a series of small waterfalls en route which will captivate walkers of all ages.

Distance: 2.2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: 28 Watersmeet, Lynmouth | sleeps 2 + 2 dogs

Heddon's Mouth

River Heddon: Heddon’s Mouth walk

Carving out a route between giant cliffs, the River Heddon flows to the sea through ancient woodland, surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery in the region. One of the most idyllic river walks in North Devon, you can follow this riverside route which gently meanders for a mile through the enchanting landscape before arriving at Heddon’s Mouth, a secluded beach full of jagged, granite-coloured rocks and crashing Atlantic waves.

Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Stay nearby: Beacon Down, Lynton & Lynmouth | sleeps 6


River Yeo: Deer Park walk

Beginning at the National Trust’s Arlington Court, this picturesque river walk follows a distributary of the River Yeo, north of Barnstaple. Follow a circular route through woodland and across a little bridge that’s the perfect place for a game of Pooh sticks. The walk begins and ends by a tearoom and, although hilly in places, it’s perfectly manageable for little legs, especially if there’s the promise of a hot chocolate afterwards!

Distance: 3 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: The Old Rectory Cottage, Combe Martin | sleeps 3 + 3 dogs


River Taw: Rock Park walk

On the banks of the River Taw and just a short stroll from Barnstaple town centre, Rock Park is a great place for a riverside walk. This easy walk follows the South West Coast Path and begins at Barnstaple train station. You’ll cross the historic long bridge before taking a tree-lined wander through Rock Park, then crossing back over the river again. It’s a short and mostly level walk, plus there are playgrounds in Rock Park to keep little ones amused.

Distance: 2.4 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Stay nearby: The Watchtower, Barnstaple | sleeps 2


River Taw: Fremington Quay walk

Further down the River Taw as it makes its way to the estuary at Instow, this is another flat walk, perfect for kids. It follows a section of the Tarka Trail, a former railway line which is now a flat, tarmacked route, so it’s also a great place to take bikes and buggies. See if you can spot the resident seal, Sedrick, at Fremington Quay as you tuck into a post-walk ice cream from the café there.

Distance: 1.4 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Stay nearby: Ellerslie Coach House, Barnstaple | sleeps 2


River Torridge: Tarka Trail walk

Beginning in Instow, where the two of the largest North Devon rivers meet, this route follows a later section of the Tarka Trail along the Torridge and into Bideford. At low tide, you may spot wading birds in the mudflats of the estuary, and at high tide the water comes almost to the path, making it a very picturesque scene. When you’ve completed this flat walk, you can either turn around and walk back to Instow, or get the bus from Bideford back to your starting point.

Distance: 3 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Stay nearby: Rivers Meet, Instow | sleeps 8


River Torridge: Bideford and Appledore walk

On the opposite side of the River Torridge, this walk takes in Appledore’s shipbuilding history and follows some quiet lanes along the riverbank. From Bideford Quay, follow the South West Coast Path; along the way you’ll see private moorings, some old boats left to ruin, and the historic shipyard before arriving in the charming fishing town of Appledore. Stop off for a pint in one of the traditional pubs that would have been frequented by the fishermen of this village before getting the bus back to Bideford.

Distance: 3 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Stay nearby: Tide Side, Bideford | sleeps 4 + 3 dogs

North Devon cottages

River walks in South Devon


River Lyd: Lydford Gorge

There’s no better way to enjoy a river walk than when the water is in full force, rushing to a precipice before crashing to the landscape below. This trail takes you to the 28-metre-high Whitelady Waterfall at Lydford Gorge. Despite being only 1 mile long, this route takes in some hills and some slippery patches so be prepared; your efforts will be rewarded by the sight of the waterfall which has been captivating visitors since the Victorian era.

Distance: 1 mile

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: Lydford Lodge, Lydford | sleeps 2

Teign Gorge

River Teign: Teign Gorge circuit

You’ll need a head for heights for this route, possibly one of the most famous river walks in South Devon, which will take you high above the River Teign. Beginning at Castle Drogo, you’ll follow the path through wildlife-rich woodland and up and down some steeper terrain, so it’s not suitable for pushchairs or the less mobile. But your efforts will be rewarded with the beautiful views, not least at the Drogo Weir which is fantastic when the river is high.   

Distance: 4.1 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: Granary Cottage, Chagford | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

River Plym

River Plym: Plymbridge Woods walk

A great riverside walk with kids, this circular route gently meanders along the River Plym and through ancient woodland. You can all have fun spotting the resident wildlife that call this habitat home, including kingfishers, falcons, deer and sea trout, plus dogs are welcome to join in the fun too. You’ll also see the remains of a wheelhouse, once driven by water, to provide power to people who lived here in industrial Britain.

Distance: 1 mile

Difficulty: Easy

Stay nearby: Sea Captains Lodge | sleeps 5

River Yealm

River Yealm: Wembury Bay walk

Combining the best of river and coastal scenery, this walk begins at Wembury Beach and follows the coast before following the River Yealm upstream. See if you can spot ravens and peregrine falcons overhead. The route then doubles back towards Wembury, where you can refuel with a cream tea at the café. To extend this walk, and further enjoy the riverside views, catch the foot ferry across the water to Noss Mayo.

Distance: 6 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Stay nearby: March House, Wembury | sleeps 8

River Avon

River Avon: Estuary walk

If you fancy a long river walk, this is the perfect one for you. Starting at the car park of beautiful Bantham Beach, this route tracks inland along the River Avon where you can spot curlews, swans, trout, salmon and otters. In season, you can take the ferry across the river to make the route shorter, however if you’re walking in winter, do check the tide times before you leave as the route often floods at high tide.

Distance: 8.8 miles

Difficulty: Difficult

Stay nearby: Rock Cottage – Salcombe, Ringmore | sleeps 2 + 2 dogs

Greenway Quay

River Dart: Greenway House

This gentle walk takes you from the pub at Galmpton towards Agatha Christie’s former estate, Greenway House, along the estuary of the River Dart. The views as the landscape opens up towards the estuary are spectacular, and you’ll come to a small beach where you can have a paddle in the water – perfect for cooling off on a hot day. When you’ve arrived at Greenway House, you can either turn back the way you came or follow the other inland routes back to your starting point, but not before refreshments at the café!

Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: Tranquillity – Brixham, Galmpton | sleeps 2 + 1 dog

River Dart

River Dart: Dartmouth Castle and Gallants Bower

One of the most famous South Devon rivers, the River Dart is not only known for sailing but is also home to an imposing castle, built in the 14th century to protect the harbour. This walk takes in the beautiful riverside setting, the majestic fortification and Gallants Bower, the site of a Civil War siege, where you will be rewarded by incredible waterside views. Great any time of year, it’s particularly lovely in spring where you can walk amidst carpets of wildflowers.

Distance: 3.3 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: Weight N Sea, Dartmouth | sleeps 6

South Devon cottages

River walks in East Devon

Bickleigh Bridge

River Exe: Exe Valley Way

The Exe Valley Way is a brilliant long-distance walk, extending for 54 miles close to the River Exe. This section of it begins in Thorverton and follows the river upstream towards Bickleigh Mill, where there is an excellent tearoom. You begin high above the river, where the hills give you an excellent vantage point, and then descent to track along the valley floor. If you are too full of tea and cake to do the return journey, there is a bus between Thorverton and Bickleigh, so you can return to the start of the route.

Distance: 4 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: Home Barn Bickleigh, Bickleigh | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Budleigh Salterton

River Otter: Colaton Raleigh to Budleigh Salterton

Beginning at Colaton Raleigh, this gentle walk follows the River Otter along a mostly flat path until it reaches the coast at Budleigh Salterton. One of the prettiest river walks in East Devon, it’s a brilliant walk to try any time of year, but it’s especially beautiful in springtime, where the nature-rich landscape is teeming with life. Spot tadpoles and dragonflies in the water, see yellow irises waving in the breeze and spy kingfishers darting in and out of the landscape.

Distance: 4 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: Parsons Farm, Newton Poppleford | sleeps 6


River Otter: Otterton Mill

Another walk along the beautiful River Otter, this route takes in the working mill at Otterton which is open to the public. The village is also extremely picturesque, with lots of thatched cottages creating an olde-worlde atmosphere. This is a particularly good walk for families, where kids will love the beach at Budleigh Salterton where the walk begins, and will be fascinated by the mill which you can all visit, free of charge.

Distance: 5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: Regency House, Sidmouth | sleeps 9 + 2 dogs

River Otter

River Otter: Newton Poppleford circular

This picturesque walk begins in the village car park at Newton Poppleford and then winds through orchards and tiny villages along the River Otter, through the spectacular scenery of the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. At Tipton St John, you can stop off at the Golden Lion pub for some refreshments before making your way back along the river to your starting point.

Distance: 5.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: Hayes Annexe, Harpford | sleeps 3

River Sid

River Sid: East Devon Way

This route follows the East Devon Way, beginning at Sidbury and follows the River Sid until it meets the sea at Sidmouth. You’ll walk along quiet country lanes and footpaths, and it’s mostly flat so it’s a great suggestion for a winter walk with little ones and pushchairs too. At Sidmouth, you can make the most of the facilities and the beach before getting the bus back to where you started.

Distance: 3.75 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: Sidbury Retreat, Sidbury | sleeps 2 + 2 dogs

River Coly

River Coly: Axe Estuary Wetlands to Seaton

Follow the Coly River on this linear walk, which will take you from the countryside at Colyton to the coast, where the river meets the sea at Seaton. You can marvel at the spectacular AONB scenery, and you’ll also pass through the Seaton Marshes Nature Reserve and the Axe Estuary Wetlands which are rich in wildlife. If you’re feeling energetic, you can turn around from Seaton and walk back the way you came, or alternatively, you can catch the tram back to your starting point.

Distance: 3.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Stay nearby: Woodmans Stoup, Colyford | sleeps 10 + 2 dogs

River Axe

River Axe: Colyton to Lyme Regis

Another walk beginning near Colyton, this route follows the East Devon Way, heading east to the coast at Lyme Regis. The main river you will come across is the River Axe, however this East Devon river walk also crosses two other rivers: the Coly and the Lym. It’s a day-long walk, but there are plenty of places to stop, admire the scenery and pick up some refreshments along the way.

Distance: 9 miles

Difficulty: Challenging

Stay nearby: Wonover, Seaton | sleeps 6 + 1 dog

East Devon cottages

Stay with us in Devon

Whether you’re visiting North, South or East Devon for some spectacular river walks, we have a range of cottages that are perfect for cosying up in. Step out of your front door and onto a peaceful waterside trail, or relax in your home from home while admiring the tranquil river views. Take a look at our full collection of Devon cottages by clicking the button below.

Devon cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.